Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Divine Office Factoid, plus weekly Q&A,and Welcome!

Welcome to new blog followers Laura, Gary, and Catholic Marine (Semper Fi!), who added their pictures to the rogues' gallery on the lower right. Happy to have you here, and although I lured you here with the chance of winning free books, I hope you'll benefit in other ways.

Also welcome to a number of other, more anonymous people, who added Coffee&Canticles to their reader feed.

This week's Divine Office Factoid deals with: the Mood of the Psalms vs. My Own Personal Mood. Most Divine Office veterans get this distinction, but it might be helpful to newbies. Here' the issue: What is the point of praying a happy psalm when you're sad, or a sad psalm when you're happy?  If I'm up to my ears in debt and my best friend is dying of cancer, it's hard to put much conviction into lines like Come let us sing to the Lord and shout with joy to the rock who saves us.   On the other hand, when life, both physical and spiritual, is going well in every possible way, what is the point in praying stuff like My soul is filled with evils, my life is on the brink of the grave?   Wouldn't it be more honest to select a psalm from one of those Bible society cards that says "When you are afraid, read Psalm A"   "When God seems far away, read Psalm B" "To thank God for his blessings, read Psalm C"

Nope. Because the whole point of the Liturgy of the Hours is that it's (altogether now, class) Liturgical Prayer. We are not just praying about our own little needs, feelings, and situations in life. We are praying on behalf of the entire Church. We are praying through, with and in Jesus Christ, Our Lord. We are standing before God (which I mean figuratively, since most of the time I'm sitting in  rocking chair) and expressing the joys, sorrows, thanks, praise,  repentance and petitions of the entire body of Christ. There are always Christians who are happy, sad, sick, dying, poor, bereaved, persecuted, etc. We are praying on their behalf. Also, and even more important, we are often praying the words in the voice of Jesus as He prays to His Father.  And that realization will bring you the most profound and beautiful thoughts during the liturgical hours.

So, when all is right with your world on a Friday night, and you're reading Psalm 88 (my soul is  filled with evils, your anger weighs down upon me, etc.) You have three ways to think about the suffering of Christ: 1. meditate on the agony in the garden. 2. Cry out on behalf of the Church which is  derided and  insulted by secular types who are longing for and plotting its downfall. 3. Plead in union with your brothers and sisters the world over who are suffering from illness, persecution, addiction, hunger, etc.

Yes, we all love it when a particular psalm or verse of a psalm seems custom made for our situation on the day we pray it.  Rejoice in those moments. But never forget that it's not about you. It's Liturgical Prayer, not private devotion. You've taken on the responsibility of praying in a larger way.

Okay, weekly Q&A time. How's lent going? Are your chosen penances and/or spiritual activities going well?
Any question about the Liturgy of the Hours? Ask away!


  1. I have a question: During the interregnum, what do we say if there is a petition for N., our pope? I was discussing this with my husband and neither of us could remember what happened in the Eucharistic prayer at Mass during the last interregnum (we probably didn't go to Mass at all, to tell the truth). So we didn't know if we were supposed to treat it the same way as it would be at Mass, or if we should just say "our pope" and not say his name, or if there even was an official way to do it.

  2. You can't pray for a pope when there is none. Priests have to remember not to say "for N, our pope" during the eucharistic prayer. We have to leave off this sort of intercession during the Liturgy of the Hours. Better yet, we may substitute an intercession for the Holy Spirit to guide the conclave to choose a pope who will be holy and courageous. The General Instruction already allows us to add our own intercessions at evening prayer to those that are already in the breviary, so this is what we should do. Currently, the US Bishops want us to add a petition at mass for Pope Benedict, and it seems like a good idea to do this at Evening Prayer. Here is a suggested text:
    "That Pope Benedict XVI, who has served the Church faithfully as Supreme Pontiff, may find peace and consolation as he turns to a life of prayer for the CHurch, we pray to the Lord..."

  3. I have asked this before, but could not find my question in the strings (not a very good blog searcher, sadly).

    Is there a requirement to do the hymns before starting the office? If not, is there something in the instruction that says that (or another reference). God has graced me with a metro ride that allows me just enough time to say a rosary, Angelus, OOR, and MP if I do not do the hymns. (Plus, I do not like to sing or chant. :-))

    Thanks. Eager awaiting your book release!

    My Lent is going well, but, as per usual for this sad sinner, I have such trouble keeping up with the promises I made... Time to renew again...

    1. Nowhere does the General Instruction say "hymns are optional" or "hymns are essential" but after reading everything that the General Instruction says about hymns, combined with the fact that most of our breviaries do not include the official Roman breviary hymns, and the fact that I don't know any priests who feel compelled to sing the hymns when they pray alone, I can only conclue that they are strongy recommended for group recitation, and highly optional for individuals. If you click on the tab above for the General Instruction, amd read section #280, you will see what I mean. phrases like "can also be of benefit" and "as far as possible...should be sung" don't have an obligatory ring to them.

    2. For what it's worth, they skip the hymns at Holy Name Cathedral here in Chicago, where there's Daytime Prayer at 11:50 a.m. and Evening Prayer at 5 p.m. on weekdays. They use the Daughters of St. Paul edition of Christian Prayer.

  4. Lent is going well, and I am keeping up with what I promised to do!

    I have a question about the Invitatory. I pray it in the morning before OOR/MP. My wife and I pray EP/NP together, but she has not yet prayed the Invitatory. What should we do?

    Also, concerning the antiphons for the canticles MP and EP (and the antiphons in general for the Psalms and other canticles): Since I often chant the LOTH, and many of the antiphons are not supplied, do I recite them or chant them recto tono or chant them to a specific tone or what?

    1. My opinion, based on the General Instruction saying that the Invitatory begins MP or OOR, leads me to think one would not use it before Evening prayer even if this is the only hour one prays. In any event, it is alwyas optional. On the other hand, if someone really, really loves psalm 95, it would not be wrong to preface evening prayer with it. But I think the sense of the psalm and the verse "Lord, Open my lips is that this is some of your first verbal activity of the entire day.

      AS to chanting antiphons, (I assume you are using the Mundelein psalter) I usually use the same psalm tone for the antiphon. Recto tono works, too. Wouldn't it be nice if someday there were a complete breviary for individuals who like to chant, with everything we needed to do it well?

  5. Thanks, Daria!

    I'm not using the Mundelein, though it is a purchase I'm considering in the future. I'm using Christian Prayer, which does a decent job of giving a primer (just after the Hymns) on chanting the Divine Office -- but there are some gaps in instruction.

  6. Hi Daria,
    Rabbit trailing led me here...enjoying what I've read so far! Is it possible to get your posts in an email? I see the signup at the bottom, but it says it's not enabled.
    Could not figure out any other way for me to contact you other than to comment, so sorry to do that here.
    God bless,

    1. Hi Angela,
      Glad you like the blog. I went onto my subscription settings and everything seemed to work okay on this end, so I'm not sure what to tell you. Try once more--maybe I clicked something today that fixed it without realizing it. Another way to subscribe is to start using google reader or some other reader. I find this a much better way to keep all the blogs I read organized and separate from my ordinary email. You might like to experiment with that.
      One more thing: there's also a "subscribe to" link on the top left of this page. Perhaps that will work better for you than the one on the bottom. I'm afraid I'm not very tech-savvy, so that's about all I can tell you. Thanks for trying.